Wow! This one was really good! Basically it intertwines a lot of old creatures, fairy tales, werewolves, Arthurian mythos, and the modern world. The amazing thing is that it works so well.

Even though the modern world has largely forgotten the existence of Fairie and the other supernatural creatures and clings to science, Fairie exists and tries to survive as best it can. Both the Seelie and the Unseelie Courts have to raid half-breed fairies from the modern world to make up for their dwindling numbers. They also have to tithe to Hell every seven years. However, there are some humans who still know about the Fair Folk. They are magicians who have organized themselves as the Prometheus Club and they oppose Fairie any way they can. The Prometheus Magi who we come to know in the book have all lost someone to the Fairie and so have a very personal stake in the cold war.

There are three point-of-view characters: the Seeker who is the hunter of the Daoine Sidhe Seelie Queen the Mebd, Keith MacNeill a werewolf prince of a small pack, and Matthew Szcezegielniak a Promethean Magus.

The Seeker rises as the most prominent character. We find out quickly that she’s a changeling, a human who was taken or seduced to Fairie. There she obviously thrived to become a competent the Seeker whose job it is to capture more humans or half-breeds to her Queen. However, she is also the daughter of the current leader of the Prometheans and her mother is planning something very big to save all of the captured humans, the Seeker among them. However (again) the Seeker is already a grown woman: her beloved lover betrayed her to the Fairies and so their son Ian has been raised in the Seelie Court as an Elf Knight. His father has never even seen him and the Seeker has apparently also seen him very rarely.

At the start of the book the Seeker is hunting a young girl for her Queen. The girl is first slapped around by her pimp and then a Kelpie tries to lure her away in order to kill and eat her and possibly to have sex with her first. The Seeker binds the seahorse by his true name and returns with the girl. The Kelpie Whisky is a major and complex character in the novel. Soon though, the Mebd reveals that a new Merlin has been seen in the world and sends the Seeker to find him and to bind him to the Queen. Much to everyone’s surprise the Merlin is a woman. She’s also not a young girl clueless of her power and innocent, but a woman in her thirties: a musician, a collage professor, and a mage who knows most of her powers and also knows what and who she wants. Seeker has started out thinking that she will have to do what Nimue and Vivienne did before her and to seduce the new Merlin. However, the new Merlin Carel is a lesbian. Also, the Seeker has to outbid her competition who are the Prometheus Mage Matthew and the Seeker of the Unseelie Court Kadiska who both come to court the new Merlin.

Keith MacNeill’s father wants him to inherit the leadership of the pack. However, Keith doesn’t want it. He doesn’t feel like a leader and doesn’t want the responsibility. There is also another wolf in the pack whom Keith thinks would make a much better leader: a black wolf who has come recently from Russia. However, according to the ancient rules of the werewolves Keith and Fyodor will have to fight for the position of the leader. Keith was also the Seeker’s lover and still loves her deeply. He also wants very much to see his son and to be a part of Seeker’s life again.

Matthew Magus is a human mage who has lost his brother to the Fairies. Kelly was taken when he was in his twenties and when he came back only a few human years had passed but Kelly had become an old man and his feet are ruined. Worst of all to the eyes of Matthew, Kelly considers Fairie his home and would like to go back. At least on his lucid moments. Matthew is trying to prevent Fairies from taking anyone else and also he tries very hard to convince the Merlin to fight alongside the humans. His archmage is Jane Adraste, the Seeker’s mother, and they try to convince the Seeker to return.

There is whole tapestry of other characters; some bad, some good, and most of them complex and fascinating. All of them have their own motivations to do what they do.

The Arthurian angle of the book is interesting. There is a Merlin who is bound to the Dragon (not a Dragon but the Mother of all Dragons) and when there is a Merlin there is also a Dragon Prince who is also bound to the Dragon. The Dragon Prince will be betrayed by someone near him every time. The Dragon Prince comes around about every five hundred years. The ones after Arthur were Harold Godwineson and Vlad Tepesh. The Prince’s purpose is to kill in the name of the Dragon to satisfy her hunger. Unlike Arthur and the people close to him, this time the people tangled into the Arthurian tale know what is coming and they can either accept it or try their best to avoid it.

Morgan Le Fay is a prominent character. Here she is not the feminist icon that some writers have made her but neither is she an evil witch. In fact, she comes across as very human; someone who has made mistakes and is trying her best to live with them. I’d like very much to get a book focusing on her. Probably not during the Arthurian times but some other time.

There are a lot of references to many, many old myths, tales, songs, and poems. Tam Lin is the most obvious one. The Mebd has forbidden it from her court so it appears that that did happen one way or another in her court. Arthuriana is of course also obvious one.

The fairies themselves acknowledge that they are made from stories. When the stories change so can they and their memories of what really happened. That’s the reason why it’s hard to fight against the legend of the Dragon Prince.

The mood of the book is not happy. It’s very much not a happy ending book, also. But it’s not entirely depressing either. People just have to do a lot of hard choices and then live with them.

Many of the plots start with a familiar way (a prophesied leader, your parent isn’t who you thought s/he was, the reluctant prince/ss, even rules say we have to fight to the death) but Bear twists them out of the familiar ruts that many, many fantasy writers put them through. In the end we’re in a far different place than where we started and that’s a huge plus.

I also like her writing; it’s not as sparse as Brust’s but it’s far from the overflowery prose that many fantasy writers use. Just enough but not too much.

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